Measurements and Standards for the Climate Change Science Program (+$5 million)
The climate is changing. Determining how fast it is changing and understanding the complex relationship between all the environmental variables to allow accurate predictions is part of the objective of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Some of the drivers of climate, such as the sun’s output, may vary slowly over decades. As a result, climate predictions depend critically on developing absolute measurements of the sun’s energy that can be compared accurately over decades from different sensors. Other important variables include the sizes, shapes, and chemical composition of particles or droplets (aerosols) in the atmosphere. Whether aerosols contribute to the warming or the cooling of the Earth depends upon their composition.
Many different climate monitoring systems in space, in the air, and on the ground are currently monitoring solar output as well as trapping and reflection of heat by the Earth’s atmosphere. These systems are operated by multiple countries and research groups. The reliability of the resulting information can be—and is—affected by the various measurement techniques and databases used. Establishment of absolute calibration and standard references will allow accurate comparisons of these systems, will help identify small environmental changes occurring over many years, and will reduce uncertainties in the data input to global climate change models.
Proposed NIST Program
With the funding provided through this initiative and in coordination with other agencies, NIST will develop:
This initiative will fill two critical gaps in data needed for accurate climate modeling: